[ This important story follows up earlier ones on Terry Stewart, who helped get Abu Ghraib up and running, and on the U.S.-supported coup against democratically elected Haitian president, Aristide. –BL ]
Haiti and Abu Ghraib: The US is to “clean up” Haiti’s prisons — just like it did Iraq’s
by Dominique Esser and Kim Ives
A U.S. prison consultant sent last year to “reform” Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, now world infamous for the torture U.S. soldiers there inflicted on Iraqis, is doing the same job now in Haiti.
Terry Stewart is the former director of Arizona’s prison system. Under his watch (1995-2002), the U.S. Justice Department repeatedly scrutinized and sued the state’s Department of Corrections, alleging abuse, particularly of women. A 1997 DOJ suit charged that male prison guards raped, sodomized and assaulted 14 women. Female inmates were made to shower while male guards stood by. The suit was settled out of court with no guilt admitted, but Arizona agreed to make major changes in prison policies.
Last week, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) called attention to Stewart’s “checkered past” and “shocking record of tolerating prisoner abuse.” In a Jun. 2 letter to the DOJ’s Inspector General, Schumer asked how Stewart “with a troubling history in the United States’ corrections system” was selected to oversee the reconstitution of Iraq’s prison system, along with three other controversial appointees. Stewart worked in Iraq in May and June 2003.
“Stewart was charged with knowingly turning a blind eye to repeated incidents of sexual abuse by guards against female prisoners ranging from sexual assault and rape to watching female prisoners undress and use the restroom,” Schumer said in his letter. “Under Stewart’s watch, prisoners at Arizona facilities were also made to stand outside for up to four days in the summer and for up to 17 hours in the winter without sanitation, adequate drinking water, changes of clothing, proper food or protection from the elements.”
Now Terry Stewart is a partner in the private consulting firm Advanced Correctional Management. The U.S. State Department hired him to oversee reform of Haiti’s prisons after U.S. troops militarily occupied the country in March.
Stewart is supervising a prison system from which most of the convicts were set free by Haiti’s “rebels” around the time of the Feb. 29th coup against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Today, the jails are refilled with hundreds of political detainees affiliated to Aristide’s Family Lavalas party. The most prominent of them is Annette “So Ann” Auguste, whom U.S. Marines violently arrested at her Port-au-Prince home May 10 on vague conspiracy charges (see Haiti Progres, Vol. 22, No. 9, 5/12/2004).
A recent incident well illustrates how Haiti’s prisons are running under Stewart’s guidance. Last week, independent journalist Kevin Pina went to visit So Ann at the P?tionville jail where she is held. While she is kept in a cell where friends and journalists can visit her only under tough restrictions, Pina found one of her fellow inmates wandering freely around the jail: convicted murderer Jodel Chamblain.
The former FRAPH death-squad leader turned himself in on April 22 to be retried by the more sympathetic authorities of the new coup regime (see HaVti ProgrPs, Vol. 22, No. 7, 4/28/04).
When Pina returned to the jail’s reception room, he found Chamblain thumbing through the identity cards of So Ann’s visitors. Chamblain had set aside the cards of Pina and two other journalists. When Pina complained to the prison guard on duty, the guard just smiled.
Sen. Schumer questioned how and why Stewart “could have been chosen for such a sensitive and important role” as overhauling Iraq’s prisons “despite credible allegations of serious misconduct” when he was a U.S. corrections official. One must also ask, in light of the Abu Ghraib revelations, how the U.S. government could continue to employ Mr. Stewart, at U.S. taxpayer expense, to bring his “expertise” to bear on Haiti’s prisons.